Having been on furlough between April and November last year, I’ve now been back at work full-time, from home, since the end of 2020. Our organisation’s agile working policy means we all return to the office again next month, for 40 percent of our full-time hours. I’m looking forward to it in some ways, especially the part where we all get to see each other in person for the first time in yonks. But I’m also wondering how it’s going to be after living in a different world for the past 19 months. (And I told you about that one disastrous day I had, returning to the office a few months ago.)
When the world went into lockdown last March, my colleagues and I – along with millions of others – had to adapt, at pace, to working from home. It soon became a natural way of working and I’ve just been thinking about how tricky it could be when we start going back to how things used to be, sort of.
Take office meetings, for example. At the moment, in our organisation, we meet on Teams and, for the most part, these meetings are efficient and productive. And really easy to set up too.
But will we just transfer our working-from-home ways to our working-from-the-office ways? How will it all look?
A global pandemic aside, here are my top ten (light-hearted) questions about our imminent return to in-person meetings:
- Will we bring our laptops and phones into meeting rooms?
I’m not talking about using our devices for taking meeting notes, I mean, how else will we email, book holidays, chat to friends and pootle around on social media when meetings get a bit boring?
- What happens if we’re having a bad hair day?
Without the option to turn our cameras off, will it be acceptable to put a cardboard box on our heads just while the meeting’s happening?
- How will we take deliveries?
Will we change our delivery addresses to the office and, when the front doorbell goes, just jump up and go to collect our deliveries? Will we bring them back into the meeting room and open them, hoping no-one will notice us doing that?
- Will we wear acceptable clothing on our full bodies?
It feels like my trousers and skirts and dresses have gone way out of fashion since the world went mad. What will we wear, after almost two years of limiting acceptable clothing to our top halves? Is a silk shirt, shorts and slippers an okay look for the office, do you think?
- What will we do when our meetings finish?
Will we wave goodbye to each other, stay seated in our chairs in the meeting room, close our laptops and yawn and stretch? And then faff around on our phones, make a cup of coffee and gently return to our email inboxes? How will we remember to go back to our actual desks?
- What about unforeseen interruptions?
Will our family members and housemates pop their heads into our meeting rooms to ask about the mouldy cheese in the fridge, or to ask if we’ve put tomatoes on the shopping list? Will they wander around in the background, half dressed and on their way to the shower or to get something from the fridge? Will pets come to work with us and walk across the meeting table?
- How will we survive without the mute button?
Will we just pretend we can’t hear certain colleagues when they’re going on a bit too long? Or just speak over them? Also, will we ask people if they’re still there if they haven’t said anything for a while?
- What happens if the meetings get boring?
I can see the cardboard box might have multiple uses. Will we put those on when the meeting gets boring, so we can get up and have a quick wander around the kitchen or the garden, or go and have a quick natter with a housemate or family member? Or just to answer or make a random phone call?
- How will we manage sneaking in a late breakfast?
Will we just eat our bowls of cereal in front of each other, or do this under the bad-hair cardboard box too?
- What happens when there are too many of us for the meeting room?
I make use of the large gallery preview on Teams, when there are more than nine people in a meeting. That means I can have everyone on my screen, but the more people there are, the smaller their images are on my screen. What’s the in-person version of that? Will we all just pile on top of each other, squeeze each other off the table, or what?
What else do you think we’ll do when we return to in-person meetings? Silly answers only, please.
Sunshine signing off for today.